Intelligence Minister leads first official Israeli delegation to Sudan

The minister expressed optimism that more countries in the region will follow Sudan and establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen signs an MOU with Sudan's Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim Yassin (photo credit: INTELLIGENCE MINISTRY)
Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen signs an MOU with Sudan's Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim Yassin
(photo credit: INTELLIGENCE MINISTRY)
Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen (Likud) on Monday became the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit Sudan.
Cohen and Sudanese Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim Yassin signed a memorandum of understanding on “diplomatic, security and economic matters,” Cohen’s spokesman said.
Cohen also met with the transitional head of state, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan.
“I am certain that this visit laid the foundations for important cooperation that will help Israel and Sudan and stabilize the region,” Cohen said.
He arrived in Khartoum with a delegation from the Intelligence Ministry and the National Security Council. They returned several hours later, before the government closed Ben-Gurion Airport to incoming and outgoing flights due to the coronavirus crisis.
Cohen expressed optimism that more countries in the region will follow Sudan and establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
Sudan is the third of four countries to join the Abraham Accords, the normalization and peace agreements between Israel and several Arab and Muslim states negotiated by US president Donald Trump’s administration.
Sudan sent troops to fight Israel in the War of Independence and the Six Day War. In 1967, after the Six Day War, it hosted an Arab League summit that issued the Khartoum Resolution, known as “Three Nos”: No peace with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no negotiations with Israel.
Cohen credited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his increased emphasis on relations with African states in recent years as the impetus for Sudan to make peace with Israel.
The Israeli and Sudanese officials “discussed regional security and stability, which is essential for economic development,” Cohen’s spokesman said. The sides said they would deepen their cooperation on intelligence.
The officials also raised the possibility that Israel will join the Council of the Arab and African Countries of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which was founded about a year ago. Several countries in the council do not have official ties with Israel, including Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.
Sudanese government officials told the Israeli delegation they are working to cancel laws that are used to boycott Israel and imprison migrants who left Sudan and then return. There are about 6,200 Sudanese migrants in Israel.
Sudan’s current, transitional government came after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled in 2019, and it seeks to shift the country toward democracy.
Sudan hosted al-Qaeda and served as a way station for Iran to smuggle arms to Hamas in recent decades. Last year, the US removed Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Getting off the US blacklist has opened Khartoum to more foreign investments and cooperation, which it hopes will rehabilitate its economy.
The Israeli officials also raised a number of potential joint economic projects, emphasizing water, agriculture, renewable energy, health and aviation.
The Intelligence Ministry said it would likely move forward in establishing desalination plants and renewable-energy infrastructure in Sudan, as well as guidance in agriculture practices.
The sides agreed that Sudanese government and business delegations would visit Israel soon.